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    Geo-ecological studies on two ultramafic sites in western Ireland

    Brearley, FQ (2018) Geo-ecological studies on two ultramafic sites in western Ireland. Ecological Research, 33 (3). pp. 581-591. ISSN 0912-3814

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    © 2018, The Ecological Society of Japan. Ultramafic soils are found in many sites around the world where they can vary from exceptionally barren to reasonably fertile. Two ultramafic sites in western Ireland were studied: grassland at Dawros, County Galway and grassy heath near the base of Croagh Patrick, County Mayo. Rock and soil chemistry was examined along with foliar nutrients (at Dawros only). Ellenberg reaction values of all plant species recorded were determined. Two bioassays were conducted to determine relative differences in fertility between ultramafic and adjacent non-ultramafic soils and to assess nutrient limitation in the Croagh Patrick soil. Both soils showed many of the chemical characteristics typical of other ultramafic sites including a moderately high nickel concentration; in general, soil metal concentrations were higher in Dawros soils. However, nitrogen, phosphorus and calcium (with a calcium:magnesium ratio c. 0.6) were all at high concentrations at Dawros leading to a fertile grassland with both calcicole and calcifuge species present spanning six Ellenberg reaction values. Foliar nutrient concentrations were not unusual although calcium:magnesium ratios were approximately double in non-ultramafic soils compared to ultramafic soils. Croagh Patrick soil had lower concentrations of most nutrients and presented a grassy heath vegetation with more acidic reaction values. The bioassays showed plant growth to be reduced in this soil relative to that at Dawros and to be clearly limited by phosphorus availability. Whilst these two Irish ultramafic sites do not show the extreme features associated with other sites across the world they indicate the global diversity of serpentine ecologies.

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